Tax Planning Tips for Independent Contractors

By MBO Partners | June 15, 2023


Key Points

Tracking profits and expenses each month can help you properly estimate quarterly tax payments.

The IRS and Small Business Administration (SBA) have helpful resources available for self-employed taxpayers.

Review deductions available to independent contractors before spring tax season.

Tax planning and prep is an important part of your job as an independent contractor. Paying quarterly estimate taxes throughout the year is a good practice that helps eliminate a big tax burden and possible fine at the end of the year. Quarterly payments are due on April 15, June 15, September 15, and January 15. Here are five tax planning tips to stay on top of payments throughout the year.

Track Your Profits and Expenses

It can be easy to get caught up in the daily flow of work, but if you can set aside some dedicated time each month to organizing profits and expenses, your taxes will thank you. There are a few ways you can pay quarterly estimated taxes. If you’ve been working as an independent for awhile and have a good idea about how much you expect to make over the course of the year. You can simply divide that amount by four and pay that much each quarter Or, you can track your income individually each quarter and pay estimated taxes based on that number.

Just keep in mind, like W-2 tax payments, if you underestimate you will owe money in the spring and if you overestimate you will get a refund. Waiting to pay all your taxes until the spring can result in an audit notification, penalties, or interest payments. Estimating slightly higher than what you paid in the previous year is generally a good rule of thumb to help avoid underpayment. Meeting with a tax advisor is also a helpful practice to make sure you are calculating payments correctly.

How to Stay Organized as a Consultant

Bookmark Helpful Resources

Even though paying taxes as an independent contractor may seem complicated, the good news is there are a lot of resources available to you. Form 1040-ES, Estimated Tax for Individuals, contains blank vouchers you can use to mail in your estimates, or pay online with the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS). These forms will help walk you through creating. Quarterly estimate based on your adjusted gross income, taxable income, taxes, deductions, and credit for the year.

The IRS has a Self-Employed Tax Center that can be great resource as well. Here, you can find information about your tax obligations, how to make quarterly payments, how to file ana annual return, how to structure your business, and deductions you can take. Keep links to these resources on-hand so you can easily access them when quarterly taxes or due or if you have a payment question.

Set Aside Income to Pay Quarterly Estimated Taxes

As a reminder, quarterly estimated taxes are due on April 15, June 15, September 15, and January 15 of each year. These dates might change aa bit if one falls on a weekend, but you can get exact filing dates from the IRS website. To pay these taxes, a helpful rule of thumb is to set aside 30% of your gross income when a client pays you. This practice will help ensure you have enough cash on hand to pay what and when you need to.

How to Estimate Your Tax Returns as an Independent Contractor

Don’t Forget About State Tax Payments

In addition to paying federal taxes, you are also likely subject to paying state or local taxes depending on where your business is based. The taxes you are responsible for will also be determined by how your business is structured. For information about taxes in your particular state, check the U.S. Small Business administration website for guidance.

Prepare for Year-End Taxes by Reviewing Available Deductions

There are many tax deductions available to independent contractors. As you approach income tax time each spring, review which deductions might be available to you. Here are a few common ones to consider:

  • Home office: If you use prat of your home to conduct your business, you may be eligible for the home office deduction. There are a few different calculations you can take for this deduction which area described on the IRS website.
  • Retirement: There are several different retirement deductions available for self-employed professionals. Tax deductible plans include an individual 401(k), a Savings Incentive Match Plana for Employees (SIMPLE) IRA or a Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) IRA.
  • Marketing and Advertising: Marketing and advertising costs such as buying business cards, using a PR firm for promotion, or creating an ad for your business are all tax deductible.
  • Travel: If the main purpose of a trip is business, you can deduct a certain percentage of your expenses. A similar idea applies if you use your car to travel for business. in this case, there is a deduction available for each business mile traveled.

9 Self-Employed Tax Deductions You May Overlooking


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